- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

The surface of the YMCA National Capital pool on this morning barely ripples beneath the sedate strokes of adult swimmers calmly and methodically breaking liquid trails. Not much doing.

In a burst, the tranquil slap of freestylers is submerged by the raucous arrival of 20 children whose splashes and shouts fill the unoccupied lanes 5 and 6.

Donning goggles to supervise the invasion is YMCA summer camp counselor Quintin Reid, a 21-year-old Howard University junior.

For the remainder of the day and until 4 p.m. each day this summer, Mr. Reid will pitch kickballs, turn a jump-rope, lead impromptu swim races and try to keep the summer campers in order.

National Capital, 1711 Rhode Island Ave. NW, is one of about 20 YMCAs united under the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, said Nykisha Cleveland, associate director of communications for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

Mr. Reid starts work at 7 a.m. by helping parents sign in their campers. Most children arrive by 9 a.m., and the three age groups — 4- to 6-year-olds, 7- to 10-year-olds and 11- to 15-year-olds — gather in an upstairs gym to hear the day’s agenda.

Mr. Reid usually works with the oldest group, but on this day, he joins the 7- to 10-year-olds. Group members jump and yell in excitement when they learn they will be swimming. But first is the morning run around the block.

After the morning run, counselors line up the campers, and Mr. Reid leads them in arm circles and lunges. After stretching, Mr. Reid takes a whistle and walks down the sidewalk.

The children pair off and race to him with each whistle blow, doing everything from running with high knees to sprinting. On the final lap, he welcomes each camper to the finish line with a high-five.

The campers then troop upstairs for several games meant to promote teamwork. For example, a game of kickball is modified to require the whole defense to touch the ball after it was kicked and the whole offense to run the bases. Another game involves the counselors turning a jump-rope while the campers link arms and try to run through without getting hit.

“We’re teaching them teamwork and how to work with other people,” Mr. Reid said. He said these camp lessons can then be translated to the campers’ interactions with their families.

Another game is Riverbank, reminiscent of Simon Says. Campers line up on one side of a rope and, depending upon whether “river” or “bank” was called out, jump to the appropriate side of the rope. River is denoted by a blue cone and bank is denoted by a green cone.

Those who jump to the wrong side have to do 10 push-ups or jumping jacks to get back in the game, and the campers weren’t the only ones who made mistakes.

“He messed up three times,” says Niya Kincaid, 10.

Niya, who faces off with Mr. Reid during Riverbank and makes sure he does his push-ups, says Mr. Reid is a good counselor because “he’s fun.”

Mr. Reid, who hails from Milwaukee, says he tries to make sure campers have fun by pushing them to try.

“Older kids don’t like to try anything new,” he says. “I tell them: ‘You never know unless you try it.’”

Recently, one girl didn’t want to play basketball. He says he told the girl that her team needed her and that she could contribute to the team in some way. After playing, she told him that she had fun.

Mr. Reid says there is one quality that a camp counselor needs the most.

“We learn a lot of patience,” says fellow counselor Erika Johnson. She says Mr. Reid does a good job as a counselor and can be strict at times in order to help the campers listen.

Though patience can be a challenge to learn, Mr. Reid’s reason for choosing is job is simple.

“I like kids,” he says.

Mr. Reid is a big-brother figure to the campers, he says, especially to older children who are dealing with issues that he faced not long ago.

However, Mr. Reid is a leader and must carry out that role.

“We do have to step up and take charge and help the kids,” he says. “If you’re laid-back, they won’t listen.”

Helping the children is what it’s all about, and Mr. Reid does everything from motivating the campers to do well to talking to them about issues they face at home.

“Some kid I never knew, I could help,” Mr. Reid says. “That’s what I like best about this job.”

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